Home News Santa Clara County eases proposed budget cuts to DA, public defender offices

Santa Clara County eases proposed budget cuts to DA, public defender offices

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SAN JOSE — Santa Clara County is reducing prospective budget cuts for the district attorney’s and public defender’s offices after their top leaders forewarned of severe public safety impacts in the South Bay.

In the county’s newest budget revision released last week, administrators are walking back the elimination of 20 criminal investigators in the DA’s office, restoring all but two positions in the division. The public defender’s office would see three criminal-investigator positions restored from a budget proposal released at the beginning of May.

Even then, both agencies will have to shoulder layoffs and attrition — making total cuts in the area of five to seven percent of each office’s budget — to help the county fill an estimated $250 million deficit for the 2024-2025 fiscal year. But after the last update, only one of the offices’ leaders said they were left feeling as if they have enough to push through what looks to be a multi-year span of tight budgets.

Chief Public Defender Molly O’Neal says she appreciated having the positions restored but noted her office still has to grapple with a $3.5 million reduction on top of $3 million in cuts already made through attrition and layoffs involving more than a dozen positions, as well as rigid hiring restrictions. She pointed to flexibility in the DA’s budget because of grants and other revenue streams — such as consumer litigation settlements — that her office does not have.

“We do not have that same flexibility and can only cut staff, which means a drastic impact to services,” O’Neal said. “We are stretched very thin and deeply hope the board will find a way to zero out our negative appropriation so we can continue to provide the excellent holistic service the community deserves.”

District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who last month warned of wanton criminality in the region had the investigator cuts been implemented, said his office has enough to provide baseline services for the time being — although it will likely mean an increase in cases-per person for many on his staff.

“We started far apart but found a resolution where we can provide basic but high-level services,” Rosen said of his office’s talks with the county. “We still had a number of painful cuts.”

Those cuts, Rosen said, included the reduction of 30 positions that are either vacant or involving retiring employees that cover prosecutors, support staff and crime-lab analysts. But he also says regional task forces that address crimes such as human trafficking and illegal guns are no longer in peril, a pivot from his earlier warning.



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